Music Matters. Last year, depressed about a recent diagnosis of a chronic condition, I decided to distract myself by taking guitar and piano lessons from Sebastian Estrada, a graduate student of music at UTEP. Sebastian is tall and broad-shouldered, with a mop of dark curly hair with solemn brows that offset his boyish grin. His eyes are the color of a dark brown beer bottle and rich soil flecked with dark chocolate all mixed together. A love of guitar has made his fingers rough which looks sometimes odd next to the smoothness of the back of his dark skinned hands. I’m sure since he was a boy he was recognized as exceptional. After months and months of sitting in front of him strumming the guitar and sitting beside him on a piano bench, I don’t know him. There is a remoteness about him, a part of him this is powerful yet unreachable. Music became the perfect diversion I needed and as our slow sweet musical tango began, it successfully blurred my criteria for self-pity.
Using music and sound as a healing tool is deeply rooted in ancient cultures and civilizations. Greeks believed music to be an art capable of healing body and soul. The flute and lyre were used to treat illnesses. Apollo, the Greek God of Medicine was also the God of Music and of healing.
Vocal sounds have been used by indigenous cultures for centuries as an integral part of the healing process. When overcome by illness Native American Shamans use the voice in healing rituals by singing to oneself to facilitate healing.
In India it is said the universe hangs on sound, not just any ordinary sound, but a cosmic vibration so massive and subtle and all encompassing that everything seen and unseen is filled with it. Hindu Ayurveda medicine has used the voice to balance and re-align chakras for thousands of years.
In 2007 during a trip to Peru I witnessed the extraordinary discovery of Machu Picchu’s Intihuatana Pyramid that was revealed to be a sophisticated harmonic structure not only mirroring positions of the planets and stellar systems but also designed to mimic the chakras and harmonic cavities of the human body. Stone altars are harmonically tuned to a specific frequency or musical tone. The sarcophagus in the center of the Great Pyramid of Egypt is tuned to the frequency of the human heartbeat. Astonishing experiments conducted at the Great Pyramid and other sites in the America’s demonstrate the pyramids to be voice-activated geophysical computers.
The discoveries emerging describe the existence of a worldwide temple system mounted like antennas on the key energy meridians, which were employed by ancient priest-scientists as a musical system to stabilize the tectonic plates of the planet. This ancient system tuned the planet like a giant harmonic bell.
A recent study at Stanford University shows that depressed patients gain self-esteem and their mood improves after music therapy.
Extensive research shows that human blood cells respond to sound frequencies by changing color and shape. Sick or rogue cells can be healed or harmonized with sound.
I recently heard Sebastian’s band Trost House play. The band name was inspired by the aesthetic of his Sunset Heights neighborhood and the home on the corner of Yandell and Hawthrone, a home that architect Henry Trost designed and Sebastian passes everyday. Sebastian’s mother is an architect and father a civil engineer so architecture, like his music has always been an important part of his life. In a dark hot bar, hearing Trost House I found myself transcending. The music touched me deeply and tickled some universal nerves, invoking images and feelings. There is a moment of intimacy that occurs between musician and an audience, an outward energy, like an invisible electromagnetic field.
Music turns you around and pulls you in. It’s a magnet. Once heard, once felt, never forgotten. Music is your essential rhythm in your heartbeat; your essential sound, the breath. And music takes us and heals us in places we couldn’t get to any other way.
Note to note, music laces out of loose ends an extraordinary lattice of assurance and grace – assurance that there is hope for awakening in ourselves a deeper sense of immediacy or purpose amid the slumber of ordinary life, and for moments when we feel like all such hope is lost and that we will never heal, the grace of trusting that we do endure, and that our of the wreckage of illness something surprising will rise.
Sebastian is teaching me about the space between the notes, about the measures, where so many juicy moments of life, spirit and friendship can be found. In music I am finding miracles, truth and healing.
When life delivers an illness that leaves you speechless, songs give you lyrics to establish a narrative meaning to life. This is why music is healing, because music is meaning.